The Tyrant at the Gates

lady-lib

Trump, the tyrant at the gates

“Do you remember, your President Nixon? / Do you remember, the bills you have to pay / or even yesterday?” — David Bowie “Young Americans,” March 1975

It was an extraordinary thing to behold. A candidate for a major American political party stood on the stage at an American university during a televised debate and threatened to jail his opponent if he won the presidency.

This is what Third World despots do before their countries spiral into civil war. As an electoral gambit, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump asked voters to endorse his political vendetta by promising that a guilty verdict for his Democratic opponent will be baked into whatever investigation his attorney general and special prosecutor hired to do the actual dirty work come up with.

It was a monumental display of his ignorance of U.S. history or the constitutional limits on presidential power. It was also a peek into what Mr. Trump’s governing style would be if ever given the opportunity to run our democracy into the ground as efficiently as the casinos and other businesses he’s failed at over the decades. He’s an autocrat unmoored from any sense of constitutional reality or history.

With morally dubious enablers like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani cheering him on, Donald Trump would transform the Oval Office into a venue for score-settling that wouldn’t stop with jailing Hillary Clinton.

Is there any doubt that the birther fever he has temporarily set aside would return, backed by the full fury of presidential authority? Within minutes of being sworn in, Donald Trump will order his Justice Department to begin scouring the academic and personal records of his predecessor for proof that he was the undercover Muslim operative born in Kenya the vindictive new president always believed him to be.

The autocratic style that has made him a terrible businessman, but a successful reality TV star, was on full display over a weekend that would have shattered a more conventional candidate’s sanity and political career. Mr. Trump’s use of four women from the Clintons’ past as stage props to highlight their exploitation of women was so grotesque and hypocritical that it was impossible to come up with a precedent in American history.

Even before the 11-year-old tape of Donald Trump’s sexual assault braggadocio became the weekend’s big story, the candidate had already declared his independence from any notion of judicial fairness on Friday by relitigating the 1989 Central Park Five case when he pronounced the exonerated men guilty as originally charged.

Though the five men received a settlement from New York City for $41 million for convictions that sent them to jail for as long as 12 years when they were teenagers for a brutal gang rape they did not commit, Mr. Trump still refuses to be swayed by the confession of the actual rapist or the DNA evidence. He stands by his original full-page ad in New York newspapers calling for the restoration of the death penalty so that it could be used on the five teenagers who were coerced by the police into the confessions despite the lack of physical evidence.

Mr. Trump has proved himself impervious to facts and laws that don’t fit his preconceived notion of justice. For him, justice is merely an extension of a brutal, all-encompassing will to power. The law is nothing more than what he says it is and the U.S. Constitution merely a wish list of conventional legal niceties he’s free to ignore.

As Donald Trump glowered and paced the stage Sunday night looking for any advantage over a foe he senses has already beaten him, the only thing he felt he could reasonably offer the American people in exchange for their precious votes was the promise of a return to the days when President Richard Nixon used government agencies to pursue vendettas. His was a promise to jail Hillary Clinton by hook or crook. It is morally indistinguishable from his insistence that the Central Park Five are guilty despite the evidence.

The scary thing is that such perversions of justice and blatant abuses of power do appeal to a segment of voters nostalgic for the kind of leadership Mr. Trump is willing to offer.

There are Americans who want to be ruled by a democratically elected despot who will patrol Washington on their behalf, rounding up and jailing those they believe once mocked and marginalized them. These are the people Donald Trump is depending on to turn out on Nov. 8 in sufficient numbers to plunge us into the Dark Ages.

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: